Water positive: what is this water revolution all about?

22 February, 2024

The fact that more than 70% of the planet’s surface is covered by water or that, on average, two thirds of the human body is also made up of water are two figures that speak for themselves on the importance of this liquid for our existence. However, this resource faces major challenges, such as the pollution of aquatic systems, mainly oceans and rivers, the disappearance of wetlands and increasingly prolonged periods of drought. 

It is in this context that water positive, a management model that seeks to preserve water, optimise its consumption, contribute to its revitalisation and raise awareness of the need to be responsible with its use, has arisen. This idea could be seen as the equivalent of carbon neutrality (reducing or offsetting CO2 emissions to zero), but with water.

Water positive is the equivalent of carbon neutrality, but with water

According to the United Nations Environment Programme if nothing changes, by 2030 nearly 50% of the world’s population will be living in areas of severe water stress. This means that they will have serious problems obtaining the water necessary for their subsistence, with all that this implies in terms of health, welfare, economy and environmental conservation. It is therefore necessary to adopt approaches such as being water positive at all levels of society.

How to be water positive?

To be water positive and contribute real solutions to the problem of water scarcity, it is necessary to start using water more efficiently. Some of the most practical options that are within reach of business and domestic environments, aside from only using what is necessary, are the incorporation of waste water collection techniques in those processes that allow it, the reduction of the flow rate in taps, the installation of sensors in irrigation systems or the use of efficient devices or appliances.

The concept of water positive goes beyond the rational consumption of water resources. It also seeks to improve its quality through initiatives such as the restoration of aquatic ecosystems, aquifer recharge, the promotion of sustainable water management practices, the protection of wetlands and/or the maintenance of facilities in the water value chain, among others.

To be water positive and contribute real solutions to the problem of water scarcity, it is necessary to start using water more efficiently

The role of water positive in the energy transition

The relationship between water positive and energy transition is much closer than just sharing a sustainability objective. In the field of energy there are processes that involve the use of water, so adopting a water positive approach in such a relevant sector can bring great environmental benefits. Examples include:

  • In the production of hydropower. Using the power of water to transform it into electrical energy is the oldest renewable source in existence. Some of the options for more efficient use of this resource are the application of mathematical simulation models, both to optimise reservoir operations and to minimise environmental impacts; the technical improvement of turbines and other system components for greater generation with the same amount of water; or the design of construction systems and materials that minimise evaporation or filtration losses.
  • In the production of components for renewables. Renewable energies require water for the manufacture of their different components, such as panels to absorb solar energy, for example. Using new technologies to optimise processes and use less water in their manufacture, including recycling programmes for parts to reduce the need for new materials and the corresponding water resources are some ways to reduce the water footprint associated with renewable energy production.
  • In the production of green hydrogen. In addition to traditional water sources, the use of wastewater, groundwater or seawater to produce renewable hydrogen through the process of electrolysis – the splitting of hydrogen and oxygen molecules using an electric current – is being studied. Technology and innovation are key to increasing the efficiency of electrolysers, optimising cooling options such as air or guaranteeing the quality of the water itself during the processes (electrolysis requires high purity water). In this way, clean energy is produced that is respectful of aquatic ecosystems and does not depend exclusively on conventional freshwater.

In short, the water positive concept is becoming the water revolution. Using it efficiently is the key and ensuring that future generations can enjoy it is the goal.